It seems that most people see identity theft as a shady individual scouring the Internet and recycling for people’s passwords, bills, and information to steal and take advantage of. While this form of theft happens, identity theft protection shouldn’t stop with shredding your mail and installing malware protection.
You should be equally informed about familial identity theft. Familial identity theft is when a family member or relative steals your identity.
A parent borrowing money in their child’s name without the child’s consent is one form of identity theft. Similarly, a husband who forges his wife’s signature on a loan application is another type of identity theft.
An adult child making unauthorized charges on a parent’s credit card is also a form of familial identity theft.
But the classic form of familial identity theft is when one family member opens up a credit card account is the name of another family member, without that person’s knowledge or consent.
Here are five things you need to know about familial identity theft along with some familial identity theft protection tips.
1. You Must Act As Soon As You Find Out About the Theft
So, you’ve found out that someone close to you stole your identity. Maybe you discovered strange charges in your name on your credit card bill. Maybe one of your relatives confessed after you started asking questions.
What are your options?
In most situations, you probably are not responsible for any accounts fraudulently opened in your name. However, if you don’t do anything once you find out about these fraudulent accounts, you might become responsible for them.
This happens if you act as though you’re responsible for the account, which includes things like making payments. This could also happen if you knowingly accept the benefits of the fraud. For example, using a fraudulently-obtained credit card yourself.
Or, if you act as though you’ve decided not to do anything about the fraud, such as by waiting too long before doing anything, you could be held responsible.
If you’re not sure what to do when you find out about the familial identity theft, reach out to a trusted identity theft lawyer.
2. Look for Problems with Other Accounts
If you discover one fraudulent account, there very well could be more. You should search for other possible areas of fraud immediately.
First, obtain all of your credit reports from www.annualcreditreport.com and carefully review both the accounts and the “inquiries” section for unfamiliar names.
If there is a risk of ongoing identity theft, freeze your credit reports immediately. If there has been an error on your credit report, you should dispute it and contact a credit report lawyer.
In addition to the three major credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion), there are dozens of “specialty consumer reporting agencies” that collect different kinds of information where you could look for evidence of fraud or theft.
For example, if you suspect that the perpetrator may have taken out payday loans in your name, you should probably try to obtain copies of your reports from the specialized agencies that collect payday loan data since these accounts often do not appear on regular credit reports.
You should also check Maryland Judiciary Case Search to make sure that there are no lawsuits or judgments against you that you did not know about.
If you find a lawsuit or a judgment that you did not know about you should contact an attorney immediately.
3. Many Creditors Deny or Resist Familial Identity Theft Claims
Creditors are often more suspicious of claims of familial identity theft than of “normal” identity theft where the perpetrator is entirely unknown.
This is particularly problematic when the perpetrator and victim actually lived together at the time of the fraud because the creditor will assume that the victim received correspondence sent to the address, and therefore knew about the fraudulent account.
If you’ve experienced familial identity theft, know that these cases are often more complicated because of this. An identity theft lawyer can be imperative to making progress on these types of cases, especially if creditors are denying your claims.
4. How to Document Your Familial Identity Theft Claim
For most credit reporting disputes and identity theft cases, it can be helpful to file a police report or complete a Federal Trade Commission Identity Theft Affidavit
You will also need to explain how you ultimately discovered the identity theft.
5. There Is Always a Reason
Familial identity theft happens for many different reasons: gambling or drug addiction, need, greed, to cover the mortgage, etc.
However, no matter what the reason, the victim should not be liable for the debt. If you cannot convince the creditor or credit reporting agency to close the account and delete the tradeline, then you should contact a lawyer who has experience dealing with these issues, like the lawyers at the Holland Law Firm.
Identity Theft Protection: Find an Identity Theft Lawyer ASAP
Identity theft protection means more than protecting yourself from cybercriminals, thieves, and data privacy. It also means disputing fraudulent charges, claims, and accounts no matter whether it was a stranger or your relative.
Understandably, familial identity theft can be mentally exhausting and upsetting. Theft is bad enough on its own, but when it’s a loved one or family member, it can hurt on a much deeper level than if it was a stranger.
If you are a victim of identity theft, contacting the Holland Law Firm could be a great first step towards getting justice and protection.
Don’t give up. Give us a call. Contact us today to set up a consultation with one of our identity theft lawyers.